job applicants who don’t follow instructions, the company I interned for won’t hire me, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Do I have to send rejections to people who didn’t even follow the application instructions?

I used to manage a coffee shop where I was (sadly and frustratingly) in a constant cycle of hiring low-wage, part-time workers, so am used to the ups and down of the hiring process, but in a less “professional” setting. Now I’m managing a small office and am about to hire a part-time office assistant and have a question about how to respond to people who don’t follow the basic instructions in the job posting (specifically, we ask them to send a letter of interest with their resume and “no phone calls, please.”)

So far I’ve received half a dozen emails of resumes, some with one sentence from the job posting pasted onto the top, and one phone caller — to whom I said, “we asked people to not call” and was told “oh, I didn’t see that.” So far I’ve replied with a canned email response thanking people for their interest and am wondering if I should even bother sending the canned reply to people who do not follow simple instructions, let alone if I should take the time to look at their resume. (I tend to be rigid about following rules.)

I’ve been on the application end of jobs many times and appreciate a response but wonder if nowadays people think they’re truly contenders for a job for which they don’t follow simple application instructions or even read the job posting thoroughly?

Send the rejection to everyone; it’s not going to take any more time than only sending it to people who followed instructions. Plus, it’s the considerate thing to do. It’s not like you’re sending them all $20 bills; you’re sending them a form email telling them they’re not being considered.

Part of screening resumes is that some people don’t follow the instructions. You will always get people who don’t include cover letters even though you asked for one, and people who call even though you told them not to. That’s just part of the package, and it’s true in any level job you’re hiring for. It’s just the way of the world.

But if you want to screen out people who don’t pay attention to instructions (and I agree that you should), they’ve just made your job really is for you.

2. Can we offer reduced pay during training?

An employee has recently given notice and we feel like we have found someone to replace them. Ideally we would like the new person to work with our current employee for a few weeks before they leave. However, this job is on a contract with very tight profit margins and we can’t afford to pay two people to work on it. Is it possible to offer the new employee a reduced pay rate while they are training, then increase their pay rate once the other employee has left?

Legally, sure, as long as you tell the person in advance and don’t try to do it retroactively or after they’ve already accepted the job at the original salary. But I’d really advise against it — it’s a good way to kill the morale of your new hire exactly when you want them coming in enthused and motivated. If you can’t afford to pay two people at once, it means you can’t really afford to have two people working at once. It’s not fair to make your new hire (the very person whose loyalty you want to be building right now) bear the cost of that. It’s a cost of doing business that the business should cover.

3. How can I get feedback about why the company I interned for won’t hire me?

Is it appropriate to ask a recruiter for feedback? If so, how do you go about it?

I recently interned with a Fortune 50 company. I thought I did everything right – I came in early, stayed overtime even when I wasn’t paid, met strict deadlines, etc. However, my resume keeps getting rejected for full-time positions. In fact, it’s been rejected six times now. What troubles me is that two of my fellow interns got the same full-time positions that I’ve applied to. These two held the same intern position as me and had very similar prior experiences as mine. How can I find out why I can’t even get an interview?

Ask your manager from your internship for feedback, not the recruiter. The manager is the one who knows your work and is better positioned to give you feedback.

For what it’s worth, it’s possible that work quality was an issue (because that’s different than the hours you worked or meeting deadlines) or something more like soft skills (communication, professionalism, etc.). If you don’t get useful feedback from your old manager, I’d try reflecting on those things and seeing if there might be something there that could be the issue.

(Also, I’m obligated to say here that you should not work overtime without getting paid, because your company could have gotten in serious legal trouble for that, even though you were doing it on your own.)

4. Employer is requiring me to get approval for all volunteer work

My employer, a state government agency, is requiring that I submit a form and get approval for any volunteer activities I would like to do outside of work. I am having a hard time swallowing this. Is it really any of their business if I am a Girl Scout leader? Can they really tell me that I cannot be a Girl Scout leader for some reason? I understand that some positions may be a conflict of interest (i.e., volunteering for an agency that receives state contracts), but can they really mandate that anything I do needs to be approved?

This approach of having to get everything approved seems a little “big brother” and seems to violate my right to privacy. Not to mention, they are going to likely stop people from becoming involved in community service organizations, which is a shame.

It’s very unlikely that they’re going to tell you that you can’t be a Girl Scout leader. They’re asking because there are other things that would be a conflict of interest, and since they can’t anticipate every possible variation of that, they’re asking people to disclose volunteer work across the board.

{ 143 comments… read them below }

  1. Blurgle*

    LW1: I would use the phrase “cover letter” instead of “letter of interest” if you’re in the US or Canada. Some people might think a letter of interest was a different thing entirely – and if they can’t call you to ask, they can only guess and get it wrong.

    LW2: If I had been offered a job and the employer told me I would be receiving less than full wages at the beginning, I would immediately suspect a bait-and-switch. There’s no way I’d accept your reassurance that the reduced wages would be temporary; my only suspicion would be that you had lied to me about compensation and now wanted to trick me into accepting a lower salary than I’d expected. I’d also wonder how you thought I would pay the rent that month.

    1. LadyCop*

      There are many areas where it’s perfectly normal to have a training wage, even in professional settings, and there’s nothing bait and switch about it. However, the one time this applied to me, they told me they were going to pay me the full wage anyway because the contractor felt paying minimum wage was disrespectful for the position. Also, you know what makes it harder to pay the rent? Not having a job, and waiting longer to start your new one because they decided they won’t even pay a training wage.

      1. katamia*

        Yeah, my current company pays $X during training and then $X + 5k after the probation period ends. They were very upfront about it, though, and $X is something that I think most people could live off of pretty easily in this area. It would be different if the training wage were under minimum wage or significantly lower than the post-training wage and also if the new hire had already been offered and accepted a higher wage.

        (Not American dollars, so the $5k salary difference is much less extreme than it sounds, lol.)

        1. Not an IT Guy*

          Yea I agree there’s nothing wrong if it’s clearly spelled out in the beginning. But I would expect something fishy was going on if there was a reduction post-offer when a firm expectation of salary existed prior.

          And you are right to be suspicious Blurgle, I myself was told I was going to be making training wage for 90 days then bumped up to full pay within my company. Here it is 5 years later and I’m still waiting for that raise.

          1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

            Yep, this is ultimately going to come down to the type of company anyway. If they seemed trustworthy and dependable at interview, someone’s much more likely to accept it than if they threw up some red flags. And a raise at the end of probation/training seems normal to me.

          2. Jerry Vandesic*

            I agree, as long as clearly spelling it out means that the details about the lower initial pay is included in the job posting or advertisement. Applicants need to know about this before they contact the OP.

    2. Rebecca*

      I agree on using the phrase cover letter for the us. My most recent job hunt was about 3 years ago and I don’t ever remember seeing phrase letter of interest, but maybe it is a career field thing. I probably would have assumed it meant cover letter, or googled it to be sure.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        Surprisingly I’ve seen it pop up in a few job postings lately.

        It through me off and I had to do some googling to see if it was different than a cover letter.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I’ve seen it before and always assumed it was synonymous with cover letter. (Though to me it seems to be inviting a lot of the crappy “hey I saw your posting on Craigslist and would like to do this job. Here’s my resume,” type of cover letters).

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      Reminds me of a job interview. “You’re not, like, expecting to pay rent or anything wiht this job are you????”
      (This was also an offer that was rescinded and they contacted me several times afterwards).

      There could be something in writing but I would be SUPER worried that they may just let me go or fire me for bogus reasons before the 90 day period was up, just to avoid paying me anything extra. Some companies are def like this

  2. Honeybee*

    LW2: Lots of employers have to have a new person to work without the person they’re replacing to train them; sometimes you can’t find an employee in time or any other number of things. Why don’t you have your leaving employee compile some documentation and training materials for the new person to read and refer to when they arrive?

  3. Ashley rhe Nonprofit Exec*

    #3, I can understand why you feel like this is invasive. I would too. But its also pretty normal in state government. We ask people to disclose secondary employment and for real, its not that we oppose second jobs, it’s that we are screening for conflicts, and this is a fair way to do it across the board. 95% of the time its a form that just gets signed and stuffed in a file, but a few times I’ve been very, very glad that there was a process to catch something that was a real problem.

    1. JessaB*

      Exactly. If you end up volunteering for a place that has a financial agreement with your office, and the agreement later gets renegotiated in favour of your volunteer position, they’re going to wonder if you gave them inside info in order for them to negotiate. Loads of companies who are not government do this. Some because they have government contracts and some because they have a fiduciary duty to their clients and having an employee volunteer with them could be a huge conflict.

  4. LadyCop*

    #4 When I worked for the Department of Corrections, they wanted this kind of thing disclosed and approved. We were not allowed to have second jobs either. Another reason (other than conflict of interest) was simply because they wanted us available to be called in as much as possible…this is one of the many many reasons I did not stay with them long. I’m big on privacy too, but really, one person is likely to see and approve this, and then it will be gone from anyone’s mind anyway.

  5. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    4. I think the part the writer doesn’t get is that some positions are a conflict of interest, and the employee is not qualified to decide what is and what isn’t a conflict. One possible conflict is if you are using child clearances or professional licenses the state has paid for in a different paid or volunteer role. Or if you are likely to be dealing with the same segment of the population you serve in your job. The possibilities are numerous, and HR has lists of concerns that need to be vetted.

    1. Blight*

      I think the OP just feels like it is intrusive, which I don’t think anyone can blame her for. I myself would feel extremely frustrated if I had to ask permission to do things in my free time. I think the management should be more clear from the start as to why they need to do this to avoid people wondering why they are being so controlling.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t be comfortable disclosing my involvement in any sort of org that’s remotely political/controversial, unless I was confident my manager shared my views on that issue.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          My experience with this was when I was working at a bank, so the government agency the OP works for might be different, but we submitted a form directly to someone in HR who didn’t even work at our location (and whom we would never have interaction with), which prevented issues like this. Hopefully that’s the way it works for the OP!

    2. doreen*

      Yes – and just as an example being a Girl Scout leader could be a conflict. Usually it’s not, but very often conflicts depend on specifics. Suppose I become the leader of a Girl Scout troop (or any non-school sponsored group that meets at the local public school). Conflict if I’m the school official who gives permission/sets prices for outside groups to use the school facilities.

      And it works in both directions- technically, my state’s ethics law prohibits me from accepting a discount on my cell phone offered to all government employees , but the ethics board has determined that under this specific circumstance it is permissible to accept the discount.

    3. BuildMeUp*

      Yeah, and I think the fact that it’s a government agency plays a part in it as well. They probably look more closely at things like that. I used to work at a bank, and we had to get approval for second jobs and volunteer gigs as well. It’s just part of working for a company that has a lot of regulations to follow.

    4. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Exactly! The LW may have good intentions, but many people do not (or have been oblivious) and that’s why policies like this are in effect. One issue that may arise is that LW might be a Girl Scout leader for one troop, and the leader for another troop may be a potential vendor or works in an industry the LW’s agency regulates. By alerting the proper people, the agency the LW works for can at least be aware of it in case something is perceived as a conflict of interest and provide guidance to the LW to reduce the chances of a conflict. The problem though is that a lot of people think it’s ridiculous to report, so a lot of stuff goes under the radar. And when stuff happens, people are surprised that how many small things affect other things.

      On a related note, additional employment should be reported as well. Some government entities may require overtime payment even if you are working two jobs that are less than 40 hours each. And it is very rare that one of the entities will agree to pay for the overtime. I can only think of one state employee that I know personally who successfully got one entity to do this. And I suspect this policy was not in affect in the 1980s when he accepted the job that put him over 40 hours. In our state, so many things are counted as state entities (e.g. universities/institutions of higher learning advisory boards) that people shoot themselves in the foot and are fired from at least one job after this is discovered. And since payments are centerally paid, it’s discovered within a pay period or two.

  6. I Heart Oregon*

    #1 THIS!! I deal with this every single day working as a manager at a staffing agency. It is incredibly frustrating. We do so much searching in our database that we HAVE to get an application (otherwise I have to manually fill out an application for them-not happening), as well as a resume. When I post on Craiglist (which is one of the best ways to get general labor/industrial workers that I need) applicants just flood me with resumes without following the instructions in the ad to complete the online application also. So then I get all of these resumes but then they are not very nice when I tell them I need the application too-if they even fill it out. A lot disappear. Unfortunately I am in an area where there are never enough qualified people for the amount of jobs that are open, so I have to be a little more patient than I want to be. If you have the luxury of being very choosy, I would. If they can’t follow simple instructions, how good of an employer will they be anyway?

    1. Techfool*

      Is the application form overly long or intrusive? Is it difficult to save and edit?
      If these guys and gals are in demand, maybe they just don’t see the need to comply with your request and will just go elsewhere in their job hunt.

      1. RHo*

        Weirdly, some of the lowest-paying service-type jobs have the most ridiculous applications. When I was looking for part-time work I did finally just start walking out midway through, especially because more than half the time you start hitting a series of questions where you can tell however they programmed the machine, it’s going to start kicking your application out anyway.

        1. CMT*

          This is so true. When I was in a time and place where I was looking for entry level food service jobs, I ruled out employers that wanted applicants to jump through all sorts of hoops. If that’s what the application process was like, I only assumed working for them would be just as bad.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      I believe there’s an option when you post to Craigslist to not list any contact info in the ad – I think it’s at the top by where you enter your email address. You could make it so there’s no email address, and the only option is for them to click the application link, which you could put in big, bold text at the top of the ad. And/or you could try not including all the job info in the CL ad, just basic info, and a “For more info and to apply, CLICK HERE” type thing toward the end.

      I feel like a lot of people going through CL looking for jobs will just skim the ad and automatically click at the top to get the email address. If it isn’t there, hopefully it will make them pay a little more attention and realize there’s an application link. You could have some sort of contact info on the actual application page just in case people have questions.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      I agree with Techfool. If the market is in favor of the applicants, your agency should either hire someone to input the data in the system, or make an online application that is WAY simpler. Many people refuse to complete them (including myself) because of how time consuming and invasive they are.

    1. mull*

      If you can’t get basic nouns right, how good a commenter can you be? Small mistakes aren’t entirely discrediting.

      Have you ever actually just hired the person with the best resume regardless of how it was submitted to see if following your application instructions really shows anything about how someone will work out as an employee? The idea that not following application instructions means someone would be a poor employee might seem to make sense, but it’s something that should be verified empirically.

      1. MK*

        I don’t think one good or bad hire would verify anything. Also, having agreat resume isn’t a gurantee either. And it’s rarely a choise between the person with the best resume OR the one who follows instructions, because, oddly, the people with the best resumes DO follow instruction.

      2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

        Well, instructions are given to make life easiest for the people hiring. Why hire somebody who’s going to make your life more difficult than it needs to be? Typos are hardly comparable…

      3. the gold digger*

        Wow. That was kind of mean.

        And a mistake made while commenting informally is venial. A mistake made in a formal job application, where we should be able to assume that the applicant is at her best, is cardinal.

        1. Myrin*

          For real. I’m having a hard time seeing how an anonymous comment on a website is in any way comparable to a formal job application (other than that they’re both in writing). I have a habit of speaking in weird half-sentences and trying to express ten thoughts at once all while shouting when I speak “normally” and yet have little problem forming coherent, full sentences in an adequate voice when giving professional speeches in my academic environment.

          1. Lindsay J*

            Yeah I hope nobody judges my writing skills based on how I post on here. (I seem to have the habit of including way too many parenthetical clauses on here that does not carry over to my formal writing, or – weirdly – most of my other informal writing).

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Come on, that feels unwarranted to me, for the reasons others have already pointed out.

        It’s perfectly reasonable for employers to assume that mistakes in the application process — a time when it’s reasonable to assume that candidates are on their best behavior — reveal something about them. In fact, that’s really, really standard hiring practice, and usually employers who brush those things off end up discovering that they were wrong to; they so often connect to the person’s larger work habits. The same is not true of casual comments on a blog.

        The bigger issue here for I Heart Oregon, I think, is that she’s dealing with candidates who have enough options that they’re apparently not interested in bothering with her process, which means she probably needs to take another look at the application system. She’s seeing it as them not following directions; I’m seeing it as some of them declining to continue.

        1. I Heart Oregon*

          If I had my way, the application would be simplified, however I work for a large company with over 300 branches so I have no control over it. It’s probably my biggest complaint about my job!

      5. JessaB*

        Depends on the job. If I’m hiring a personal assistant where the details are incredibly important – I mention something and expect it to be remembered/done, because in work matters, or at home, if it’s that kind of estate manager/assistant, I expect to say it and forget it and have it be done. If I have to keep following up and reminding the person, they’re not doing what I need them to do, which is take detailly annoying stuff OFF my plate and onto theirs. So, yeh, big giant deal if they can’t follow written instructions given with the job posting. Because that’s kind of the job. I leave a note or an email and they do for me whatever I’ve asked.

        Since the OP is hiring an office assistant who presumably is being hired to deal with the detail work so that the other people in the office don’t have to, details are important. If you’re hiring someone to pack things in a mail room, maybe not quite as important (I’d interview em and see,) but an assistant who can’t follow simple written instructions, can’t do the job.

      6. neverjaunty*

        If AAM were looking for a professional commenter, she might well use ‘didn’t get a noun right’ as a way of weeding out applicants.

        Not following application instructions doesn’t mean somebody is a terrible human being who would be awful at every aspect of their job. It does mean that applicant’s very first – and most important – interaction with the potential employer was done in a way that indicates they didn’t follow the employer’s instructions on how to apply. That is, as the phrase goes, a red flag.

        There are plenty of jobs where following instructions explicitly is critical. Try to file a brief in federal court and see what happens if you don’t follow instructions to the letter.

      7. Jenniy*

        First, let’s take a moment to consider that a few of us are commenting from mobile devices, and have “auto-correct” kicking our butts. For those posting from a computer, “e” and “r” are side by side, so that is not a completely unreasonable typo.

        Let’s instead talk about first impressions. An applicant’s resume / application packet is the first view a company has of that person. You have probably heard it as many times as I have: you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If you want to prove you are detail oriented, you make sure you follow all the detailed instructions in the job posting. If you want to prove you have impeccable spelling and grammar “u don’t wrot lik dis.” (I have seen classmates wrote essays like this and I want to claw my eyes out with a melon baller)
        You are judged on what you present, like it or not. The same way a person heard talking bad about the company in the elevator would probably never be hired, a person who can’t follow simple, basic instructions is not likely going to win out over someone who does all that is asked of them.

      8. I Heart Oregon*

        Wow! It was my auto-correct that changed it, but you sound super fun to work with.
        As I said, I am more patient than I might be otherwise. Which the other day meant I sat and filled out the application with a gentleman that couldn’t read. I spend countless hours on the phone and in the office helping with application questions-and for someone that is really struggling I will accept their generic resume provided by the employment office and do the data entry myself.

  7. Meg Murry*

    For OP#3 – have you contacted your former manager when you apply for these positions? I’d highly recommend doing so, especially if they are at the same location – they may be able to put in a good word with the hiring manager for you. Since you have already been rejected several times, you may also want to have your former manager or one of the other people you worked with review your resume and cover letter with you – they could probably give good advice as to how to make it stronger for their company- if there are certain skills you need to emphasize, or a better way to describe your accomplishments when you were an intern, etc. Good luck!

    1. Sam*

      Thanks for the feedback. I spoke with both my manager and my direct supervisor before my internship ended. They both gave me feedback on what I’m doing well as well as where I can improve. I’m going to reach out to my former boss to see if he’ll take a look at my resume. Thanks again for the feedback.

      1. FTW*

        Ask for your boss to take a look at your cover letter as well. There could be something missing there too. I’d also apply to a few other companies too, to cover your bases in case a full time job with your internship company is not possible.

  8. Buu*

    LW1 Sorry about the calls but I am baffled by the emails thing, sending emails is a normal way to apply for a job now. I think it’s been about 10 years since I sent a physical application. I don’t think it’s that weird for people to interpret cover letter as cover email. I don’t know about your ad wording but you should specify a physical letter if that’a really the only application type you can take.

      1. Boop*

        I think she should be objecting to the emails in general. The application process requires that an online application be filled out. That application should include specific places to upload your resume and cover letter. No need to send anything by email.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you’re conflating two different letters. #1 just asks for a resume and cover letter to be emailed, so her application process does not require an application to be filled out.

  9. Pointy Haired Boss*

    #1: I wouldn’t get fixated on it. Remember, this is basically an arbitrary request that helps in the hiring process — some people realize this. Good hiring practices aren’t based on formalities — if someone makes the company money, I don’t care if they wear a tie; if a candidate offers good value for their requested salary, I don’t care if they omit a cover letter.

    Now if the question is whether unqualified people who don’t submit cover letters deserve follow-through, I would say that it is a kind thing to do — I tend to assume cluelessness rather than disrespect.

    1. misspiggy*

      Except this is an administrator role, where a key qualification for the job is to follow instructions precisely, even if you can’t see the point of what you’re being asked to do. So these requests are not arbitrary.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        True. Anyone can make a mistake but submitting a cover letter/not phoning or whatever are very simple and basic instructions. An admin will be faced with much more complex stuff than this once hired so you need to give the hirer a good impression.

      2. JessaB*

        Exactly, if the instructions at work seem weird, a good admin can ask about it, but in the application process no matter how weird it seems, as long as it’s reasonable (no cooking meals for everyone etc.) you do it. Or you explain in the cover letter why you can’t (requires equipment you don’t have that is expensive for instance,) but you absolutely acknowledge that you read the instructions not just blew past them.

    2. hbc*

      Good hiring practices aren’t based on formalities, sure, but someone who ignores “an arbitrary request that helps in the hiring process” is making a potential future coworker’s job that much harder. Is that really the person who you want working alongside you? That’s the sales person who does decently getting customers but won’t bother to follow the rules about expense reports, or the programmer who won’t document her code in a consistent way because she knows what she did, or the guy who gets himself caught in a stamping machine because the safety precautions were slowing him down.

      People who don’t follow instructions cost companies in lots of ways, so dismissal of an “arbitrary request” is a major problem, and that’s before we get to the basic lack of intelligence of trying to get a job while not doing what the company has asked you to.

      1. Pointy Haired Boss*

        “that’s before we get to the basic lack of intelligence of trying to get a job while not doing what the company has asked you to.”

        I’ve noticed this attitude a lot from folks who earned their management experience in retail — there’s this unspoken assumption in retail that anybody who works for you is stupid until proven otherwise, as if they weren’t they wouldn’t be working retail. :-) (It’s not 100% wrong, although I still think it is a bit unfair.) It really seems to change the way managers view things like rules; rules become the fence that “keeps the stupid in”, rather than a useful tool for keeping danger out. If the role is to keep the stupid in, then you want employees unlikely to test the fence. If the role is to keep the danger out, you want them testing that fence all the time, pulling up parts that are no longer needed, and placing them where they can be useful.

        1. Charityb*

          That’s a good point. I guess the flipside of that is that when you don’t know anything about a person, every little piece of information that you do get receives more weight than they otherwise would. It’s not so much that following rules is always important or that people who break rules are automatically incompetent, but if the only thing you know about someone is that they can’t follow simple instructions it’s easy to move on from there — especially if there are a lot of other candidates who did clear that hurdle.

        2. hbc*

          Oh please. This isn’t some random obstacle course that’s been erected. “Give me a couple of sentences telling me why you want this job.” If I get ten roughly identical resumes and five of them sent in a cover letter as requested, which five would be my best bet for following the rules about folding the shirts a certain way? For reading and following the posted sign about washing hands after using the restroom?

          And actually, I have no problem with people not understanding rules, so I’d be happy if someone were to contact me saying “I’m sorry, but what do you mean by ‘letter of intent’? I’m finding a couple of different definitions and want to get this right.” Or if they made a stab even if it wasn’t quite what I wanted. But failing to follow a simple request is a pretty good indicator that you’ll be a difficult employee, whether it’s carelessness or problems with reading comprehension or stubbornness.

        3. Ms Anne Thrope*

          I’ve seen this a lot too, and not just from managers of retail but in politics and society in general (USA). Frankly it stinks. The whole idea that retail workers don’t deserve a living wage because they have ‘no skills and no education’ is 1., grotesque, 2., classist, and 3., flat-out wrong. How many PhDs have we seen writing in who are working some low-wage crummy job because they can’t find one in their field? Including, yes, retail.

          Anyway, to the question of applications and cover letters, since every company seems to use a different system, all of which take way more time and effort than they should, it’s hardly surprising that people skip steps. And for the love of all that’s holy, if you want people to send in a resume AND fill out an app so it goes into a database, make the damn thing accept pasted text! Don’t make me sit there and retype all the info on my resume. I’m going to decide it’s not worth the trouble. Or you’re going to get a redacted version that has a lot of keywords.

    3. Oryx*

      Following instructions is a pretty important role for ANY job so, no, not arbitrary if you can’t apply for the job correctly.

    4. MK*

      “Arbitrary” and “helps in the hiring process” contradict eachother; if it helps in the hiring process, it’s a usefull practice not something the employer requires just because. Also, as a candidate you don’t have the information to determine if something is arbitrary or not; it’s pretty arrogant to assume that, because you can’t think of a good reason for something, it must be totally pointless.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      I think what you might be saying is, “If an applicant has a great resume but doesn’t follow the application directions to the letter, you should still consider them.” I don’t entirely disagree with that idea — if their resume is at the very top of your applicant pool, bringing them in for an interview might make sense, but I would want to find ways in the interview to make sure they would be paying more attention in the actual job than they did when they applied.

      I think not following the application instructions is a bigger deal than someone not wearing a tie, though!

      1. Pointy Haired Boss*

        To my mind, it’s identical with the tie.

        The phrase for it used to be that business leaders need people who “think outside the box”. I think the new term is calling them “change agents”, but it means basically the same thing — it’s all about process improvement.

        Look, I like to think that I’ve got a good grasp of my business, and that the rules and policies I make are reflections of that, so I understand the appeal of having employees who treat my rules with the sort of reverence usually reserved for holy rites. :-) It’s flattering, without being quite “yes man” territory, and it banishes that little worry in the back of every good business-leader’s mind that there is a blind spot in their calculations.

        Process improvement requires people who are willing to take action when something is not necessary to the task at hand, even if it is customary — you’re not going to get the sort of person who speaks out about things that need work if you select against them right off the bat.

        I remember when people would fret over the type of paper they used for their resume, and how it was mailed — if they didn’t use resume paper, if there were fold lines, why it would look like they had no attention to detail! (Is that really the person you want working alongside you?) Now the idea of using paper at all seems quaint — it turns out that requiring things on paper, let alone a specific type of paper, really was arbitrary.

        I try to keep in mind that resumes and cover letters are two of a variety of available assessment tools, not sources of strength themselves. If a person introduces themselves in the body of an email to which their resume is attached, I wouldn’t sweat there being no cover letter. If they submitted a resume through LinkedIn, which is connected to their profile that contains most of the sort of information a cover letter would cover, I wouldn’t fret about a lack of a cover letter. If I met them at a professional conference and we had a long and interesting conversation, after which they transferred a copy of their resume from their smartphone to mine via Bluetooth, I wouldn’t be worried that there was no cover letter.

  10. MK*

    #4, I get the feeling that people tend to define their “right to privacy” too broadly; it really doesn’t mean that you get to control any and all information about yourself that others have. In this case in particular, I don’t understand why where one volunteers should be considered private, if anything it’s a fairly public matter. And the employer does have a valid reason for wanting the information, which the OP herself acknowledges. In a perfect world, one could simple make it a rule that employees should divulge any conflict of interest, but reallistically, that’s not going to happen.

    1. Xarcady*

      Well, I could see if you volunteer, say, for a political party that is so very much not the political party 99% of your co-workers are members of, or if you volunteer for something that is controversial in your area, or even for a religious organization if it’s not the mainstream religion in your area. If the info’s in your file and the wrong person gets hold of it, it could make your work life less than pleasant.

      Heck, at one job, the “teasing” and heckling that I got when certain co-workers found out I like science fiction was enough to make me start looking for a new job. It was mean-spirited and on-going. So, yeah, I’m very, very careful about what personal information I reveal at work. (Science fiction is for men, don’t you know, not women. If a woman likes science fiction, there’s something wrong with her, according to my now thankfully former co-workers.)

      If I were the OP, I’d double-check who has access to the information, just to reassure myself, before turning in the form.

      1. The Expendable Redshirt*

        Yuck! I’m sorry your former coworkers were like that. I couldn’t stand to work at a company who mocked my enjoyment of Sci Fi topics. Pifff!

        I once had to declare all my volunteer activities and possible part time jobs before working on a military base. Nobody cared if I volunteered somewhere benign like Ducks Unlimited. However, they sure would have cared if I volunteered for an angency of evil (lead by The Joker) who just wanted to watch the world burn. In some industries, mandatory reporting of other activities makes a lot of sense.

        1. Agreed*


          Plus it’s not like OP’s employer won’t find out at their next background check. Better to have it on file the whole time than lose your job for being private (or dishonest depending on what side of the review you are on).

          Given that OP is working for a government agency there probably about a 0% chance of OP’s personal information being distributed to their coworkers or boss. Someone in legal or security looks it over and it goes in a shredder the moment it proves unnecessary information.

          1. Brett*

            My secondary employment and conflict of interest forms are subject to sunshine law and retained three years. Not just my boss and co-workers, but any member of the public can request to view them. I have seen some locations where they are even published online.

      2. MK*

        But if you volunteer for a political party (or any other cause) you are making a very public statement. Yes, it could prejudice people against you, but so could a number of other things.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Not necessarily. Political donations are public, but volunteer work isn’t inherently public, unless you choose a public position like canvassing.

      3. the gold digger*

        A director at work – my boss’ peer – who interviewed me told me that he had assumed I was Party A. “We’re pretty strong Party B here,” he said, “but we don’t talk about politics at work. We just know because we have been working together for 20 years and we are all friends.”

        “Why would you think I was Party A?” I asked.

        “Oh because of A, B, and C. But we didn’t care. I recommended we hire you and then I was surprised to figure out that you, too, are B!”

      4. NJ anon*

        I love science fiction, am female and have never experienced this. Back in the dinosaur age, when I was getting my undergrad degree, the university I attended (a school not all that easy to get into) offered a 1/2 semester course on science fiction. I was in my glory! Got credit for it too! Ah, the good old days . . .

        1. neverjaunty*

          I think I took that class too! But there’s a lot more acceptance of SFF in academia than back when we had to chip our laptops out of flint.

      5. Brett*

        Many public sector workplaces (especially local government) actually ban volunteering for a political party. Pretty much _all_ of them ban volunteering for a campaign if you are not a patronage employee (and if you are a patronage employee and volunteer for a campaign, you will probably be fired if your candidate loses).

      6. Fact & Fiction*

        As a female published author of SFF, I must have something super wrong with me! Oh noes…

  11. BananaPants*

    OP#3 – I really don’t want to sound mean here, but it’s entirely possible that there were reasons other than quality of your work that aren’t getting you hired.

    I’ve had summer interns who did a very good job on the technical aspects of their job but weren’t offered a full time position for a variety of reasons, including a just being a poor fit. My group’s intern this summer was in that category. His technical knowledge was middle of the road. There were numerous times that he didn’t follow EH&S procedures even after going through training and being reminded of the rules, which resulted in employees literally having to babysit him (rather than doing their own work). But what killed it was his attitude. We’re sure he thought he was showing confidence, but it came across as arrogance and it made him difficult to work with. He was lacking in other soft skills. We were pleasant to him but were in agreement that there was no way we wanted to work with him full time. Meanwhile, I’m positive that if you asked him, he’d think he was a superstar.

    In my organization, interns are clearly told that they are not to work overtime under any circumstances. An intern who knew that and persisted in working unpaid overtime would actually be creating a very negative impression with HR and their mentors. If your employer figured out what you were doing, that alone could have done it.

    1. Hiding on the Internet Today*

      The overtime thing would have been a big deal with me, and I run our departments intern program. If I can’t trust you to protect the company from the DoL, I have a very hard time believing you can see enough of the big picture to be valuable here. What other laws are you okay with breaking for your own personal benefit?

      Impress me with your integrity, willingness to learn, and helpfulness. It’ll go further than working 80 hours a week. My department doesn’t need any more of a burnout problem.

      1. Nobody*

        I’m willing to bet OP #3 didn’t know that working unpaid overtime could be a problem — especially if she was working with exempt employees who regularly worked unpaid overtime. If nobody told her this, it would be kind of crappy to hold it against her.

        1. Oryx*

          Or, on the flip side, did the OP’s manager even know she was working overtime? If her manager left before the OP and the OP stayed, or if the OP does work at home in the evenings, or on the weekends, etc., the manager might not even know.

        2. BananaPants*

          We have a formal intern program and this is part of their on-boarding – explaining that they are not authorized to work overtime. If they stay 5 minutes late or need to wait a half hour for their ride to arrive or want to work 10 hours on Thursday so they can bail 2 hours early on Friday afternoon, no biggie – but they aren’t supposed to be working more than their 40 hours a week. Mentors (all exempt emoloyees) have to sign their interns’ time sheets each week and if they take any time off the supervisor has to sign as well. Interns’ badge access to the building is only between 6:30 AM and 6 PM on weekdays, so they can’t get in on nights and weekends. Interns aren’t given tokens for VPN access – they could take their company laptops home but wouldn’t be able to log in and do much work. I think at least for us it would be difficult for an intern to successfully pull off working a lot of unpaid overtime without getting caught.

          If an intern needs to work 50+ hours a week to finish her work, she either has time management issues or a lack of skill/knowledge. We don’t have intern projects that require THAT much work – if anything we make it a lighter workload to make sure they finish their project by the end of the summer and have time to participate in the intern activities/programs.

          1. Nobody*

            It’s great that you explain all of this to your interns upfront. For a lot of interns, it’s their first experience in the professional world, and many of them don’t have a clue about this stuff. Unfortunately, not all companies are that organized when it comes to intern orientation, and interns are left to guess or take cues from the other employees. In some organizations, exempt employees are expected to put in a lot of unpaid overtime, and sometimes “face time” or “butt in chair” time is regarded as a measure of hard work and dedication. Based on OP #3’s phrasing, where she lists working unpaid overtime as one of the things she did right during her internship, I suspect she may have picked up on this attitude and thought that, say, staying late to finish a project ahead of deadline would impress her manager. Of course, if she was explicitly told not to work outside her scheduled hours and disobeyed, that would be a different story, but that doesn’t seem like the case here.

            1. Sam*

              Right now, I am certainly doing some soul searching when it comes to self-awareness. Perhaps I am coming across differently than I think I am. With that said, I thought I was far more professional than in comparison to the two other interns who got full-time positions.

              The other interns often treated their job as if it was happy hour – they were extremely chatty with the topics often being grossly unprofessional. It got to the point that I had to speak to my supervisor. This is why I am mystified by all the rejections.

              In regard to the overtime, I honestly thought I was being helpful. During my internship, our department had two major deadlines where the full-time/salaried employees would work 12-14 hour days. I offered to pick up extra work and stayed a half hour over a few times. I didn’t think it was excessive, but I thought I was doing it innocently.

              1. Nobody*

                I think a lot of people are surprised to learn that non-exempt employees are not allowed to choose or volunteer to work unpaid overtime. FYI, the problem is that employers are legally required to pay non-exempt employees for all hours worked, so even if they don’t ask you to stay late — even if they forbid you from staying late — they still have to pay you if you do. Even if you don’t put it on your time sheet, you can come back later and sue them for that pay. That is why they may get annoyed if you work extra hours without permission; it might not be in their budget to pay overtime, but if they don’t, they could have legal trouble. Now, if nobody said anything to you about it, that is probably not why they are rejecting you. If they were concerned about you working unauthorized overtime, it’s highly likely they would have told you to stop.

                As for professionalism, it could be that this company (or the department where you interned) just isn’t a good fit for you. Some managers are more interested in hiring people to be their friends than to do good work, so it is possible that the other interns made a good impression by being fun and social. If that’s the case, you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway (and you may have made a negative impression by complaining about the other interns). I know it must be disappointing to keep getting rejected when you thought you had your foot in the door, but maybe your manager can give you some feedback that will help you, if not to get a job there, then in your career somewhere else. Good luck!

                1. Sam*

                  I’m glad I’ve gotten so much feedback on the overtime issue. I didn’t realize all the ways it could be viewed negatively.

                  As far as the other interns and not fitting with the culture, I’m starting to think that maybe that’s the reason behind all the rejections. While I’m friendly, I am reserved and don’t have socializing at work high on my list of priorities. If the others were chosen simply because they were more likable, then you’re right, I probably don’t want to be with that company in the long run.

              2. Kate M*

                Not to say that the interns should have been hired, but what do you mean by their chats being grossly unprofessional? If they were racist, sexist, etc, then that’s one thing and you could and probably should bring that to your supervisor. If you meant they were talking about their dating lives, or family topics, or even just talking about partying/drinking, then yeah, probably not professional to do (especially as an intern), but making a big deal out of it yourself might have given the impression that you were a busybody or didn’t know what kinds of topics warranted a supervisor’s involvement.

                1. Sam*

                  The one intern would talk excessively about her sex life. Since all of us interns were placed in the same area and in close proximity to one another, it was hard to ignore. I actually debated for a couple weeks whether to say something because I feared it would make me look bad – I was the only other girl and the other three (male) interns seem to enjoy the conversation. While speaking up may have given my supervisor and other co-workers a bad impression, I don’t think I should have to listen to that constantly.

              3. Artemesia*

                ‘it got to the point I had to speak to my supervisor.’ — being a hall monitor when you are not a supervisor is not the road to making people hope you will become a permanent part of the team. Hiring decisions are not always ‘fair’ and being someone people want to work with and being the most skilled are not necessarily the same. I have supervised a lot of interns and one pattern I noticed is that very competent women with what I saw as good social skills and excellent professional skills often lost out to rather dim bros. Gender discrimination is very strong in the workplace as is discrimination base don appearance. Good looking white males were much more likely to be hired than less attractive men and women. Not always of course — many of our strong women got good jobs — but it was enough of a pattern for me to notice. So competence is not the only thing that matters.

                And of course your view that you are more competent may well not be the view of those at the firm. Reporting on other interns though – without knowing more about it — sounds like the kind of behavior that would make an exceedingly negative impression.

                I would talk with your manager about your interests. He or she MIGHT give honest feedback if in fact you aren’t being chosen because they didn’t like you or don’t have a positive impression of your work. If it is an oversight e.g. you need a boost from the manager and s/he wasn’t aware you were applying, then this might help you secure an interview. At least give this a try (no whining about being overlooked, an open request for feedback or assistance). But with six rejections, I’d assume that the hiring manager has contacted your manager and been told ‘no’.

                1. Sam*

                  I spoke with my supervisor because I don’t think I should have to listen to someone talk about their sexual encounters when I’m at work, not to win brownie points. If that left a negative impression and is costing me a permanent position, I’d rather not work for the company.

                  I plan to speak with my manager. Hopefully, he’ll provide me with some feedback.

    2. Green*

      Not all internships are designed to lead to full-time opportunities. Interns should be really clear on the likelihood of being hard post-internship at the job before going in. There are some jobs (law firms) where “summer associates” are offered jobs at close to 100% rates as long as they don’t get drunk and hit on the partner’s wife (and sometimes even if they do). At my current company, we have interns truly for their benefit — they get exposure to the industry, a line on the resume and we don’t really get valuable work out of them. We almost never hire directly out of school, and also our criteria for full-time jobs are higher than our internship criteria (we do internship placement in conjunction with local schools, industry diversity efforts, etc.). Others being hired could be out of the norm (they may have been exceptional or had additional qualities that made them more suitable for the job).

      1. Oryx*

        I think it’s also important to note, though, that even if A) internships often do lead to full-time opportunities and B) you were an intern, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically be given a FT job nor do you deserve one by default.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        I treat internships on my teams as very detailed interviews. As with all interviews, some turn into job offers, some don’t.

      3. BananaPants*

        We consider internships to be extended interviews – they get to know us and we get to know them. Some years none of our interns get full time offers, other years 3/4 of them will. It’s very dependent on our hiring needs. Someone can have a good internship but we decide not to hire them, and likewise sometimes former interns decide they don’t want to work for us. It is not a guarantee that if they do well they’ll get a job offer – frankly, 15 years ago when I was an intern that was the case, but that stopped with the recession.

      4. Sam*

        We were told that full-time positions were not guaranteed. While I don’t think I deserve a full-time position just because I was an intern, I am perplexed by the company’s hiring process.

        As I stated in a reply to another commenter, the interns who received full-time positions were grossly unprofessional. I wouldn’t say they were significantly more qualified than me either yet they now have full-time positions within the company (the same position Ive been applying for) I can’t even get an interview. That’s why I want to seek feedback.

        That probably sounds condescending. I’m just a little frustrated.

        1. Graciosa*

          This definitely sounds like an issue of how well you fit into the culture. If you felt that the two interns who *were* hired were “grossly unprofessional” there is a definite mismatch.

          I know this must be frustrating, but it does illustrate how incredibly important perception / cultural fit / working style can be to your success.

          One company’s “grossly unprofessional” is another’s “cheerful and pleasant – just great to have around.”

          One company’s “highly professional” is another’s “arrogant p**** who walks around with a stick up his butt.”

          The difference is a matter of perception when viewed through the lens of that culture.

          I don’t know if this will be much comfort, but the importance of cultural fit actually increases as your career progresses, so learning this lesson now (while painful) can give you a big long term advantage. People spend a large portion of their waking hours at work, and they consistently choose to do it with people they like. Learning to read cultural cues will help you find jobs where your natural style will be very successful – or help you adjust your behavior to fit the culture if that’s something you’re willing to do.

          This is not always an easy area for managers to provide useful feedback, so pay close attention to both what your manager says and does not say. Hopefully, there will be something helpful for your longer term career growth.

          Best wishes –

          1. Sam*

            Thanks for the feedback.

            It’s disappointing because this was my dream job. If I’m not a cultural fit, I gues its not meant to be.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              As Alison says, there is really no such thing as a dream job. Obviously, this place had problems that may have turned out to be a nightmare for you down the road (I’m thinking particularly of the tolerance for inappropriate conversations).

              But if there is one really cool job, there will be others. And I’m sure one or more will have a much better working environment and you’ll fit like a glove. :)

        2. Lady in Pink*

          I doubt you’re the only former intern who wasn’t hired. For example, the Fortune 500 company I used to work for brought in far more interns each summer than there were full time entry level openings each year. The application process for these jobs was very competitive. Former interns also competed with on campus interviewing participants and other applicants for these openings.

  12. Jenniy*

    The only time I would be ok with calling /would call if a listing said not to is if they listed an email address to send the materials to and the email came back bad (and if I verified and double verified I hadn’t screwed up typing it in)
    I could see calling, apologizing for the call, informing them it was kicking back the email, and asking them to verify the email address was correct -it’s always possible someone listed it wrong initially.
    But otherwise, and obviously OP’s letter these people just aren’t reading the instructions… Which sucks for OP but is bad for them, as they likely do that with regard to all positions they apply for and will make finding a job that much harder
    Because really, who wants some who can’t follow basic directions?

    1. MLT*

      This past week I had an applicant email me 13 times, “sorry to be a pest, but…” “Who are you, are you the hiring manager?” (No I am the director, the HR manager is away.) “Well can you give me the HR manager’s name?” It was comical. We are in the business of public information, so I answered, but by the end my answers were one word answers. You know where that application will be going when it finally arrives!

      1. Jenniy*

        That has got to be beyond nerve-wracking!
        I can see calling if the emailed kicked back as bad/undeliverable (like the “voice mail is full” type deal, which I have gotten from some emails, or invalid) but that is crazy

  13. Suzanne*

    #3. My daughter had the same situation. She interned at a non-profit, applied for a job there while she was still interning, had the CEO call her into his office one day and tell her how much they liked to hire from within and what good things he’d heard about her. Did she get the job? No. Did she get an interview? No. Did she even get anything but the cursory “Thank you for your application but sorry, no job for you!” email? No.
    She got a much better job, but is still mystified. I agree with others, OP. Reach out to your former manager. The people screening the resumes & apps might not have a clue or maybe yours, for some odd reason, is being screened out by mistake.

    Good luck!

    1. fposte*

      I think that can be even tougher on the parent than on the child! And for internal candidates, it really is advisable for an employer to reach out personally when a candidate is being rejected.

      But it also sounds like there’s the common job-hunter error here of taking what the employer says as meaning more than it does. They likely do like to hire from within, and the CEO probably *had* heard that your daughter was good. None of that means she’ll get an interview, let alone a job, and this employer was more diligent than many in sending a rejection to candidates who didn’t get an interview.

      So while I think they really should have sent a personal note to her for the rejection (“Jane, we’ve really enjoyed you as an intern, but our pool for this position was highly competitive. [Regular rejection here]”), I don’t think they did anything wrong in the rest of it.

  14. Bana*

    I’m wondering what would happen if I would have to disclose volunteering to my employer…
    I’m speaking at a conference this weekend where I’m listed as bisexual polyamourous and kinky and we’ll speaking about parenting in that context.
    Me disclosing this would pretty out me to my boss.
    I’m listed under a different name for the conference and I made the decision to handle being outed but I’m just wondering what my boss’ face would look like reading this. And should it be handled by hr just like the disclosure of personal information.

    1. MK*

      Eh, does speaking at a conference count as volunteering? Or anything that is a one-time thing? I sort of assumed the OP’s job wanted people to report if they were providing unpaid work for an organization on some kind of regular basis.

      1. Bana*

        I’m not being paid. All I get is free entrance.

        I also volunteer for a lot of fetish events in the city where I might doing door shifts or education.

        I can’t imagine explaining to my boss that I’ve been giving safety lesson on rope bondage once a month or that I’m volunteering selling tickets for a raffle for a woman shelter at the Feminist Porn Award?

        1. fposte*

          I think you deal with it the best you can if it comes up. It’s not all that common to have to disclose volunteer commitments; usually it’s paid stuff that employers (like mine, the state) worry about.

          But if I had a paid gig doing fetlife guidance or something, yes, I’d just have to put it down on my yearly form.

        2. Brett*

          The free entrance part would probably make it reportable if you are a government employee (depends on how much the entrance fee normally is).

  15. kristinyc*

    OP #4 – Thank you for being a Girl Scout leader! I work at the national HQ for the org, and I know it’s a huge commitment. I hope your employer isn’t telling you that you can’t be one.

    1. Mona Lisa*

      I was a 13 year Scout and just left a job with a local council, and I was so excited to see someone who wanted to be a leader, too!

  16. F.*

    When I worked (as an admin) at a major financial services company, we had to disclose all volunteer affiliations and what stocks we or anyone in the household owned, even if only one share. We also had to obtain permission to buy or sell any stock from any company. Pissed off my boyfriend a great deal, as he owned the stocks, which were purchased with his money and he didn’t work for the company, I did. This was supposed to prevent insider trading, though I am sure the C-level executives were able to get around this somehow. I had no access to insider stock info as an admin anyway.

  17. Blight*

    #1: I think you have to provide some leniency with the ‘no phone calls’. I often applied to jobs that were reposted from the original source and the ‘no calls please’ didn’t get tacked on and the add would include the company contact info. So I would call and get treated so rudely, once I explained that it wasn’t show on the ad and that the phone number was given – the person just stopped speaking until I hung up. It isn’t that bad to just say “I’m sorry but we are not taking phone calls regarding this position, please submit by email. Goodbye”

    Using the term ‘letter of interest’ is very misleading. To me I would think it appropriate to send an email with my resume attached and a tiny blurb that I was interested in the position… I always include a cover letter but I could see many people just thinking that they need to say they are interested in an email.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Unless you’re in a very specific industry that’s unlike others, I think “no phone calls” should always be the default assumption. Sure, they shouldn’t get mad if their ad didn’t explicitly say so, but who wants to get hundreds or thousands of phone calls instead of hundreds or thousands of emails?

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        I’ll start by admitting that I hate the phone, so my preference is not to call…

        But my assumption these days is not to call a potential employer unless we’ve gotten to the interview stage.

  18. Carolyn the red*

    Well, some volunteer positions might sound weird to outsiders (say a fandom?), or reveal a religious or political view that you don’t want to share.

  19. BTW*

    #1 – I applied for a job recently and received an email back saying, “You are one of the select few who actually followed the instructions!” It amazed me that people don’t. I think it’s important, really important. Because if you can’t even follow instructions when applying to positions, how well are you going to do on the job? I think it also shows your level of interest. If you really want the job, you’ll do everything in your power to get it.
    I recently applied for another job and when I sent my application in it asked 3 questions, one of which said that the employer only hires locally and do I live in X area. I had to say no because I don’t. I live in a bedroom community so driving is a normal part of my work. I got a hold of an HR email address and sent a short, professional note saying that I successfully held a job in their area for 4 years and that my drive to my other job was an hour one-way so transportation was not an issue for me. She mentioned my email on the phone saying that it was great that I sent it. Needless to say after 2 interviews, I landed the job.
    Not just following instructions but going the extra mile for something you really want, helps.

  20. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    Actually, you can afford to pay two people at the same time, it doesn’t matter how tight that contract is. It’s the way you look at/allocate the money.

    Let’s say it’s a round $1000 a week for the new person. The two weeks training isn’t salary, it’s an investment that the business is making. $2000 isn’t much for an investment. It’s not much for a training budget. There’s a place to put that.

    If, if you literally do not have $2000 in the bank that you can put toward this, if things are that illiquid, your problems would be so much greater than your question at hand, I don’t think you would have bothered to write AAM.

    So cheers. Put it under another budget line. Charge it to the business and not the project.

    1. the gold digger*

      At a former job, where I did the financial reporting, my boss claimed there was no money for raises, but there was over $100K in recruiter fees for two people (in a group of ten) in one year. For a company with internal recruiting. He just decided on his own to use an external recruiter.

      He also found $30K for a consultant to write our employee handbook. She copied and pasted information from the internal HR website and didn’t even make the formatting consistent. His admin, whose annual salary was $29K, had to re-do the entire thing.

      WT’s is right: There is always money. It’s just where you put it in the budget.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          IDK, how would that be? If you don’t have $2000 to invest in something vital, the first slightly bad piece of luck will shutter the doors, profit or non-profit.

          What happens if the new employee, trained or not, doesn’t work out after two months? What if they aren’t competent and two months of salary is wasted? If you do not have $2000, it’s just a matter of time before the whole thing folds.

          1. Artemesia*

            I’m with you. I can think of dozens of cases over the years when there was ‘no money’ to pay people raises who were doing the heavy lifting, but money was found to pay consulting fees to cronies, or give signing bonuses to favorites, or raises to some people but not others. It is almost always about management choices.

            When I became a manager and was in charge of raise recommendations I was shocked at the disparities in pay. The man who had created the program that literally saved the organization (it was generating 50% of our revenue at a time when we were running in the red and closed the gap that led us into the black) was paid about half what similarly qualified people making much less important contributions were making. The raise pool was so small that I could not remedy this through normal channels but was able to get him 10% raises three years in a row by making a case outside of the normal process which brought him at least into a ballpark that was somewhat fair.

            It is common for some new female hire to get a lower salary because she accepts the statement that ‘there isn’t any money’ for more and then see the next similarly qualified male hire, start well above her. (And the literature seems to show that women who aggressively push for better pay are devalued whereas men who do so are admired.)

      1. StarHopper*

        I find it to be the same even in a household budget. We can (almost) always make room for high-priority expenses like repairs or wine, but damned if we still haven’t bought any bedroom curtains four years after moving into this place. (We do have blinds; we are not savages after all!)

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Generally, raises are harder because:

        1) it’s a long term commitment, not a one time expenditure
        2) payroll is a fixed percent (with some tolerance) of an overall budget
        3) to increase payroll, you need to (generally, to make the math work) increase profit or productivity

        Unless you generate more net profit, you can’t shift money around to cover raises, you have to shift percents in the business plan.

        But it sounds like your boss either had a bad plan or no plan to start.

        1. fposte*

          Not to mention the benefits component–here it’s close to 50% additional cost, so your $10,000 raise is actually close to a $15k additional business expense.

          1. Technical Editor*

            Really? How does that work? If the company is paying $5000 per employee for insurance and paid vacation, then that doesn’t change when an employee gets a raise. I’ve only ever seen benefits as a fixed amount, not a percentage of salary, outside of a person’s bonus, which isn’t really a benefit anyway in the strictest of terms.

            Maybe you’re thinking that Medicare and SSI taxes will go up? I can see that, but those aren’t benefits.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t know anything about the OP’s organization, but every single school or company I’ve worked at has at one point or another said “we don’t have enough money for X” (which is reasonable/necessary and only about $3000-$10000) while also wasting money on Y (which is extravagant and useless and usually upwards of $50000).

      1. fposte*

        Sure, but so has every single person I know :-). Whether officially or psychologically, budgets are compartmentalized.

  21. AnotherFed*

    #4. Welcome to government service. When you take that kind of a position, you must at all times prevent the appearance of unfairness, including in trivial (to you) things like where you volunteer. As a whole, your government agency must avoid conflicts of interest, so they’d need to know you’re a Girl Scout volunteer so that they can prevent putting you in a position that required you to work with Girl Scouts for an official reason. Within the government, it’d be both ineffective (for the reasons Alison mentioned) to self-report or to only ask some people – if you don’t ask everyone to fill out the forms, you’re discriminating on some basis (maybe not an illegal basis, but just a laziness or disorganized random basis) and that is something the government works very, very hard to avoid.

  22. OK*

    Without reading all the comments….

    The intern that cant get hired- you mentioned working over time without being asked or paid to do so. It’s possible that is biting you in the butt now. It could have made them think you were incapable of getting your work done within the time constraints. Working without being paid could end up a legal issue also, so that would be 2 strikes against you.

    It’s just a thought. You knew what you were doing, but from the outside it may have come across in a very negative way. In the future, stop working for free and ask what they expect in regards to overtime.

  23. J*

    I think any employer who deals with human services or “issue” type things (which a government agency is very likely to be involved in) is exactly the type of employer who would want to know about your volunteering activities.

  24. Froggy*

    #4 – At least in my county the government needs this information because you can’t volunteer in a position that includes any activities you do in the course of your paid job.

    For example, I volunteer for a county based canine search and rescue group. Police K9 handlers for the county cannot volunteer with us because we do activities they would normally be paid for.

  25. Womble*

    #4 — In general, I’m with you on “right to a private life”, however in my past life as a train driver, I willingly filled out the “secondary employment and volunteer work” disclosure form. It served a dual purpose: allowing the organisation to manage conflict of interest (not a big deal for a train driver, I’ll grant you) but, more importantly, for managing fatigue (a big problem for someone in charge of 600 tonnes of high-speed metal).

    This *was* a practical problem for me, potentially, because I’m a volunteer firefighter on the side, which could easily put me in the position of driving trains for eight hours, going home, getting called out to fight a fire for 12 hours, then going back to work to drive a train, having had no sleep and done heavy physical activity the entire time.

    I had a “chat” with management about the competing demands on my time, and they made it quite clear that I would have to choose, at times, between work and volunteering, and explained (at greater length than normal) the policies around fatigue management, available resources for volunteers, and the procedures for calling in “fatigued” if I *did* end up on a long callout for a fire before a train-driving shift.

    And you know what? Despite being someone who normally bristles at any sort of “getting all up in mah bidnis”, I was perfectly OK with it in that instance, because I don’t want me or my family riding in a train driven by someone who hasn’t slept in 24 hours. Similarly, despite being an ardent advocate against workplace drug testing *in general*, I happily blew in the bag and took piss tests while a train driver, because I wasn’t high on the job, and I’d prefer it if nobody else driving a train was either.

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